HealthDay News — Evidence does not support current dietary guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and low consumption of saturated fats for cardiovascular health, according to results of a meta-analysis.

An analysis of data from 27 randomized controlled clinical trials assessing fatty acid supplementation showed that relative risks for coronary disease were 0.97 (95% CI: 0.69-1.36) with beta-linolenic acid, 0.94 (95% CI: 0.86-1.03) for long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated acid, and 0.89 (95% CI: 0.71-1.12) for omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, Rajiv Chowdhury, MD, PhD, from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues reported in  Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers also identified 32 observational studies of fatty acids from dietary intake and 17 observational studies of fatty acid biomarkers.

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Among the 32 observational studies, relative risks for coronary disease when comparing the top versus bottom thirds of baseline dietary fatty acid intake were 1.01 (95% CI: 0.97-1.07) for saturated, 0.99 (95% CI: 0.89
1.09) for monounsaturated, 0.93 (95% CI: 0.84 -1.02) for long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated, 1.01 (95% CI: 0.96-1.07) for omega-6 polyunsaturated, and 1.16 (95% CI: 1.06-1.27) for trans fatty acids.

Among 17 studies that assessed circulating fatty acids measured via biomarkers, relative risks for coronary disease were as follows:

  • 1.06 (95% CI: 0.86-1.30) for saturated fats
  • 1.06 (95% CI: 0.97-1.17) for monounsaturated fats
  • 0.84 (95% CI: 0.63-1.11) for long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fats
  • 0.94 (95% CI: 0.84-1.06) for omega-6 polyunsaturated
  • 1.05 (95% CI: 0.76-1.44) for trans fatty acids

“Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats,” Chowdhury and colleagues concluded. “Nutritional guidelines on fatty acids and cardiovascular guidelines may require reappraisal to reflect the current evidence.”

The meta-analysis included more than 600,000 participants from 18 countries. All of the studies were published before July 1, 2013.


  1. Chowdhury, R et al “Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk” Ann of Intern Med 2014; 160 (6).

Disclosures: Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.